Music and Lyrics (2007)

Age is adding a touch of gravitas to Hugh Grant. His good looks, which have limited him throughout his career, are fraying in the same good way that Pacino’s did when his bloom wore off. Grant is no Pacino, but looking at him now I can understand how he got caught in a car with a hooker in L.A. That understated, self-deprecating yet subtly superior British style is aided immeasurably in his case by the signs of wear on his puss.

Here, he carries on the Cary Grant/Eva Marie Saint tradition of older guy (Grant is 47) scoring with the beautiful and nubile young woman (Drew, 32).

Grant plays an aging, ex-rock star reduced to singing at state fairs. (Refer to Bill Nighy in Love Actually for more on the subject.) By a remarkable stroke of luck, he is given the chance of a comeback. However, to succeed, he must write a great song “by Friday”  that is, by soon enough to introduce tension in the film but by far enough for him to meet a girl, work through a few plot points,  and win her heart before the deadline. With the date set, a meet-cute immediately follows: the has-been’s plant sitter is on vacation and Drew Barrymore, ditzy but still lovable in spite of her age – although the clock is ticking on this – shows up to fill in ith the watering chores. May Drew only grow up sooner than Diane Keaton did (if she has). Hugh writes the music; Drew is a lyric poet savant. The next Roger and Hammerstein is born, though hopefully R and H didn’t wake up in the sack together after a night of collaboration.

For those on product-placement watch, Baldwin and Yamaha are given equal, lingering time for their grand pianos.

Extra credit to Grant for performing not only on film, but also onstage in front of a full auditorium of children, teens, and their parents. He also does a love duet on stage; I’ve had a soft spot for these ever since Willie Nelson and Amy Irving did theirs in Honeysuckle Rose and then Dyan Cannon came onstage to announce her divorce.

This movie also produces a credible hit song that helps keep the romantic vibe afloat. No oscar-winner about the hard life of a pimp, but hummable.

Somebody should do (or has already done) a study of couple chemistry onscreen. Hugh and Drew have it here like Clooney, Brad, and Matt have it in Oceans 11, 12, and 13. It has nothing to do with the characters and everything to do with the stars. You’ll need to want that in order to absorb all the Hollywood vitamins that this flick provides.

The film steps up to PG-13 when Hugh and Drew wake up in bed togeher the morning after. This, we know, in a movie paced as energetically as this one, means that the subsequent breakup is only minutes away. (Note to self: watch A Touch of Class again sometime soon.) Other than the moment in bed, the film is squeaky clean. The stars let it loose in the out-takes but even there they are relentlessly beeped out.

If you require an edge to your romantic comedy, you won’t find it here. The movie is smooth, all edges and corners rounded. The conflict is painless. Boy meets girl, loses girl, gets her back again for the finale before you’ve reached the bottom of the popcorn bag. This is not a bad thing if you want to sit back and watch Hugh and Drew do that thing that they do, this time with and at and on each other, while your brow remains unfurrowed. Then tear up for a second at the melodic, heartfelt climax. Nothing wrong with that at one in the morning on the couch in the family room.